I am called to stay in the Marriage and Family class during Sunday School to help give a therapy perspective when needed, but the class is on break for the summer. When trying to decide what to do with ourselves during the break, we felt strongly to attend Gospel Principles class. This is the Sunday School class that focuses on basic doctrinal ideas of our church. The lesson this week was on “the Fall”, or the story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit.
Bear with me while I summarize, and then share the part that really got me excited and continuing to ponder all week.
LDS doctrine believes that there was a literal fruit, though not necessarily (and probably not) an apple specifically. We believe that the eating of this literal fruit caused a literal physical change within the physical bodies of Adam and Eve and the rest of creation. The eating of this fruit was a transgression, or a breaking of a legal law given by God, but not sin (inherently wrong) (see Elder Oaks talk in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 98; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 73).
Many other religions believe that this was “original sin”, and that we have all been punished because of what happened that day. We do not. We do agree that the adversary was trying to thwart the plan of God by destroying their innocence, but we believe that God knew the adversary would do this and that it was a part of His plan all along. This is also part of why we believe the atonement was part of the plan all along.
God first gave Adam and Eve the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” (Moses 2:28), which Adam and Eve could not do in their innocent state. They would not bear children and raise families while still so innocent, and so would not be able to be obedient to that first commandment (2 Nephi 2:23). This would leave them forever in a state of disobedience.
Besides that commandment, God gave Adam and Eve additional instructions, which included not eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Moses 3:17). These instructions were given as a matter of information, a statement of “If you do that, then this will happen.” However, Adam and Eve needed that to happen in order to be obedient to the first commandment. In this way, the instructions about the tree and the commandment to be fruitful were synchronous without being contradictory.
The reason the instructions about the tree were given, and the reason Adam and Eve were warned about the consequences of the fruit in advance, were so that Adam and Eve would fully understand their choice and its consequences. Without this, Adam and Even could not consciously choose. In order to be fully obedient to the first commandment, Adam and Eve had to consciously choose this plan of God that included physical death for them and their future children. It was not enough to simply agree to the plan premortally; they had to actually choose it when the time came.
Rather than condemning Eve for her choice, we honor her and are grateful that she faithfully chose to carry out God’s plan so that we might all have this mortal experience of being organized into families, gaining our physical bodies, and proving our faith by the choices we make. Adam was faithful both to Eve and to God’s plan by also eating of the fruit, for otherwise Eve would have been banished to mortality alone. Neither Adam or Eve could have been obedient to the first commandment if they were all alone. They needed to experience mortality together to be fully obedient to that very first commandment (Moses 5:11).
These are the roots of our doctrine on marriage as well. It was in these very early moments, before time began, that God ordained marriage between man and woman. We need each other, and from the very first of creation we were designed for each other. Nothing teaches us more about the atonement than marriage, and nothing teaches more about the love God has for us than the parenting of our own children. This is why the family is central to the plan of God.
All of creation – the plants, animals, and even men – were organized from the “dust” of the earth, meaning the same materials of which the earth was organized. This quote is from the Institute manual on The Pearl of Great Price:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Those natural elements that make up the physical earth are sometimes referred to in the scriptures as dust. Thus Adam was created from the dust of the ground meaning that the physical body which he received was created from the elements of the earth. (Gen. 2:7; Moses 3:7; Abra. 5:7; D&C 77:12.)
We see this bit of creation happening when Adam is made. Genesis 2:7 specifically tells it this way: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground”. Man was made from the same substance of which the earth was made, the plants were made, and the animals were made.
But there is a different story for the creation of woman. Woman is the only thing not made from the materials of the earth. She is not made of the same dust as man. She is made of something different than earth. Genesis 2:21-22 says:
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
The Institute manual (see section on Moses 3:21-23) says that “President Spencer W. Kimball taught that Eve was not literally created from Adam’s rib. He said: “The story of the rib, of course, is figurative” (“The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 71; this was quoted again in “In the Beginning”: A Latter-day Perspective”, Ensign, Jan. 1998).
If the story of the rib is figurative, then what does it symbolize? Of what finer substance are we made, if not of earth? These are our questions about Eve, and about ourselves as women.
The answers to these questions explain many things I have learned this week that I do not now write. The answers also explain why there is such darkness when we as women do not live true to our nature: the opposite of so great a Light is great darkness, and this is why women can be so cruel to others when they forget themselves, when we forget who we are and of what we are made.
We know that in Hebrew, “Eve” means “the source of life”, and is very related to the word that means “to live”. It is by Eve that we were able to enter mortality. Adam and Eve were our first parents, but also symbolic of all of mankind. The word “Adam” in Hebrew means “mankind”, and in Moses 1:34, it explains that there were “many”. Of Eve also, there were “many” (see Moses 4:26).
We also know that Adam did not name her Eve, but that the Lord had already named her this (see Moses 4:26). Adam had dominion over the animals, and so he gave them names. But he did not have dominion over his wife, and so called her by the name the Lord had given her. This is the connection between Adam’s initial work of naming animals, and the discovery of his wife: God was teaching Adam about companions, and the need for companions, and helping him understand the difference between a companion and his equal helpmeet. This is the part of the creation story retold in Moses 3, when Adam is learning why he needs a wife and who she is – by naming the animals (who are not her), so that he learns by experience just as he has learned everything else.
Here is the Emily version of this experience, shared from a dating post from a year ago:
The Lord brings each animal to Adam, one by one, so that Adam can learn what is special about that animal, what it gives to the world, and what needs he himself has that must be met.
First, there is a goat. Adam says, “Oh! I see this funny looking creature likes to chew things up the way I like to ponder ideas. I see this animal is good at making milk that turns into the yummy kind of cheese you get with chips and salsa. I love pondering, and I love queso, but this is not my wife – this is a goat.
Then there is a horse. Adam says, “Oh! This is a brilliant animal, with deep-knowing eyes. It can work hard, and is beautiful when it runs, and is a very good friend. I love hard-workers who can also be good friends, and deep-knowing is critical, but this is not my wife – this is a horse.
Then there is a puppy dog. Adam says, “Oh! This animal is so smart and delightful and makes me laugh! It is a good friend, and very loyal. It protects me and plays with me and cuddles with me. I love all these things the most, but this is not my wife – this is a puppy dog.
One by one, all the animals are introduced to Adam (by the Lord, who orchestrates all things), and by this process Adam is able to see (clearly) what type of creatures they are – and name them accordingly.
But none of them are his wife.
While he did love all the animals very much, and was glad for what they taught him, and glad to let them be who they were, they were not his wife.
He needed his equal, his match, the one to inspire and love him beyond all those wonderful traits he loved in the sweet little animals. They made life easier, even better, but they did not make him truly happy. Not in a joy-and-peace kind of way.
That’s how he knew her when he saw her, because he had learned what he was looking for, and recognized it when the Lord brought her to him. He said, “Oh! Yes! That is her! That is a woman! The first one that is not like the animals, the first one that is something different, the first one who is my equal, who matches me, who brings me to life beyond just the companionship of pretty pets. That is her!”
That’s how he knew her to be his wife.
I wrote that a year ago next week, when I met Nathan for the first time.
When I met Nathan, I knew he was my husband.
We got a lot of flack – a surprising amount of flack – about only being happy because we are newlyweds. We love being newlyweds. We understand all relationships go through cycles and seasons. We understand that we are new and know so very little. But it is really sad when people tell us that we are only happy because we are newlyweds. It is sad for two reasons:
1.) Those people either do not understand or believe the principles of the gospel as pertaining to them, that any couple living the gospel through obedience to God and service to each other will be happy.
2.) Those people are teaching a false doctrine that “happiness” depends on external circumstances, rather than being a response chosen from an internal state of being.
We are not happy because life is easy.
We are not happy because nothing hard has ever happened.
We are not happy because we are young and shiny.
Life has been hard for us, very hard. Without even going into the years before we found each other: we spent our courtship a thousand miles apart, survived a hurricane the month after we were married, had a miscarriage at Thanksgiving, my mother was killed after Christmas, and two more miscarriages since. And we are going to be foster parents, which is asking for trouble. We waited 36 years to find each other, and while we are not yet ancient or even wise, getting married at 36 is not the same as getting married at 20.
The reason we are happy, even when we are sad, or when life is hard, or when we are late in learning life lessons, is because the gospel is true.
And because it is true, it works.
Gordon B. Hinckley said:
A happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion (Ensign, May 1991).
Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have (Ensign, Aug. 1992, 6).
If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on through eternity (quoted in “Graduates Receive Challenge from Prophet,” Church News, 6 May 1995, 11).
And Spencer W. Kimball promised:
Marriage can be more an exultant ecstasy than the human mind can conceive. This is within the reach of every couple, every person. (Ensign, Mar. 1977, 33-34)
We believe these things are true.
We believe we are children of Adam and Eve, and children of Heavenly Parents before them. We believe they have set this example for us, and made it possible so that these things are true for us today, true for us one day at a time, one experience at a time.
That’s what makes us happy.